Cover image for In praise of plants
In praise of plants
Hallé, Francis.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Eloge de la plante. English
Publication Information:
Portland : Timber Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
334 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Electronic Access:
Table of contents
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Material Type
Home Location
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QK45.2 .H32513 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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What do we know about plants, really? Through a rich array of examples, many illustrated in the author's elegant and distinctive style, this book offers a new look at botany. This scholarly yet fun book examines the qualities that make plants unique, so different from animals. Experienced in both the academic and in-the-field sides of science, the opinionated Hallé delightfully makes the case that plants differ so profoundly from animals that questions are raised about the meaning of individuality and the nature of life and death.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

A specialist in tropical botany, Hallesets forth a provocative discourse: Why do we revere the animal kingdom, yet act indifferently, or worse, wreak destruction on the plant world? Biologists direct their gaze upon animals, Halleposits, neglecting to delve into the infinite mysteries begging to be explored in the realm of flora. Densely scientific at times, Halle's writing mode is also convincingly fervent as he compares animal and plant forms. Engaging readers by suggesting that plants are biologically superior, Halle augments his point of view with strongly felt words quoted from poets and naturalists, novelists and scientists. Looking at notions of mobility, immortality, structural differences and disconcerting similarities, Halle uses a trove of line drawings to help expand upon terms and interpret concepts. These delightfully fresh illustrations serve to further open readers' minds and hearts to original, witty, wondrous ways we might begin to ponder plant life. --Alice Joyce



Replacing elephant ivory with vegetable ivory has been presented as an environmental victory. However, who is concerned about the bleak future for the palms that provide the vegetable ivory, the strange Phytelephas of the understory in the western Amazonian rain forest, whose existence is threatened by the destruction of the last primary forests at the foot of the Andes? Would we prefer to see palms vanish rather than elephants? At the supermarket I found a shampoo , 'Pure, natural, with essential oils of sage and juniper berry, chamomile, orange and wood rose.' The label stated nicely, 'This product was not tested on animals.' Why do we have a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals but not one for prevention of cruelty to plants? Why do we have leagues against vivisection but do not protect plane trees against pollarding by arborists?Let us accept the evidence. Humans have a passion for animals even if they come to prefer them on the plate rather than admiring them for their freedom. Interest in animals persists as a deep emotion, completely accessible and common to all, profoundly natural. We cannot say the same about plants ... Plants to us are principally food, drink, medicine, raw material for industry, pasturage for domestic animals, green space for cities, landscapes for relaxation. They do not arouse any real passion in most of us. Excerpted from In Praise of Plants by Francis Hallé All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

David Lee
Forewordp. 11
Prefacep. 17
Acknowledgmentsp. 20
Chapter 1 Plants, Animals, and Humansp. 23
Who Cares About Palms?p. 24
Are Plants Alive?p. 26
Contemplating Our Navelp. 27
A Bias Bordering on Injusticep. 29
The Garden and the Peasantp. 30
The Sorcery of Omnipresencep. 32
And the Disadvantage of Othernessp. 34
A Bit of Psychologyp. 36
Comparing Plants and Animalsp. 38
Chapter 2 A Visit to the Landscape of Formp. 41
Whence Form?p. 42
Capturing Energyp. 43
Plants, Vast Fixed Surfacesp. 43
Animals, Small Mobile Volumesp. 46
With Vast Internal Surfacesp. 47
Consequences of Growthp. 50
The Structure of Spacep. 53
The Scale of Natural Phenomenap. 54
Relationship Between Form and Spacep. 56
Changing the Scalep. 64
One Polarity and Radial Symmetry: Plantsp. 69
Two Polarities and Bilateral Symmetry: Animalsp. 73
And Monsters?p. 74
What Is an Embryo?p. 77
Homeotic Genesp. 80
Animal Eggs, Plant Eggsp. 84
Animals Are Strangep. 88
Hormonesp. 89
The Action of Light Remains a Mysteryp. 93
The Miniature Model Versus the Samplep. 94
Closed and Open Developmentp. 95
Stories of Treesp. 99
Fixed but Not Immobilep. 101
The Time Scale for Plantsp. 103
Movement and Growthp. 104
What Do the Poets Think?p. 107
Individuals or Colonies?p. 108
The Discovery of Reiterationp. 110
What Is an Individual?p. 113
Is a Tree an Individual?p. 116
Potentially Immortal Beingsp. 117
Two Ways of Dyingp. 122
Chapter 3 The Cellp. 125
Characteristics of the Eukaryotic Cellp. 126
Differences in Structurep. 129
One Cell Within Anotherp. 133
Differences in Functionp. 134
Where the Horticulturist Precedes the Biologistp. 140
Foreshadowing at the Cellular Levelp. 142
Chapter 4 Plant Biochemistry in a Nutshellp. 145
The Silhouette, Cellulose or Proteinp. 146
A Regrettable Inelegancep. 148
A Look at the Krebs Cyclep. 151
Biochemistry for Normal Lifep. 152
Biochemistry for Reliefp. 156
An Altruistic Treep. 158
A Butterfly That Remembers Shapesp. 159
Biochemistry to Take Advantage of Animal Mobilityp. 161
Are Animals Manipulated by Plants?p. 163
A Pinnacle of Beautyp. 166
Nauseating Flowersp. 168
Copulating Flowers and Animalsp. 169
Chapter 5 Evolutionp. 173
Do Plants and Animals Evolve the Same Way?p. 173
One Plant, Two Generationsp. 176
Parasitic Reduction in the Haploid Generationp. 179
One Animal, One Generationp. 181
Soma and Germp. 182
Do Plants Have a Germ Line?p. 184
The Plasticity of Organismsp. 185
Who Wins the Prize for Plasticity?p. 191
Genomic Plasticityp. 192
Generators of Genetic Diversityp. 196
Tissue Culturep. 201
Hybrids Between Speciesp. 201
Genetic Diversity Within the Plantp. 204
The Strangler Figs of Lake Gatunp. 205
Sorting Mechanismsp. 211
Predatory Actionp. 215
What Does Plant Sexuality Mean?p. 217
What Causes Genetic Diversity Within a Plant?p. 219
The Vertebrate Immune Systemp. 220
Stationary Lives and Genetic Diversityp. 222
Resistance of Biologists to a Genetics Unique to Plantsp. 224
Darwin or Lamarck?p. 225
Are Bacteria Lamarckian?p. 227
How Weeds Defend Themselves Against Herbicidesp. 228
Must We Choose Between Darwin and Lamarck?p. 230
Geographic Convergencep. 231
Divaricating Plants of New Zealandp. 234
The Beeches of Verzyp. 237
Mimes and Mimicryp. 239
Two Different Classificationsp. 243
Chapter 6 Of Other Living Beingsp. 249
Fungip. 249
Trees and Coralsp. 252
Coral Architecturep. 254
Returning to the Idea of the Individualp. 258
Concerning Plasticityp. 261
Reticulate Evolutionp. 265
The Forest and the Reefp. 267
How to Live Fixed in Placep. 268
Plants and Insect Societiesp. 270
Evolution of Behavior or of Form?p. 273
Looking for Analoguesp. 274
Is a Plant a Crystal?p. 276
Immanence and Transcendencep. 280
Chapter 7 Ecologyp. 283
Give Plants Their Duep. 284
Nutrition and Biological Typesp. 285
Ambiguity in the Relationship Between Eater and the Eatenp. 288
Climates and Landscapesp. 291
Who Needs the Other Most?p. 293
Noah's Two Arksp. 296
Epiloguep. 297
What Do We Recognize as Success?p. 298
In Praise of Plantsp. 299
Dispersion or Concentrationp. 300
Are Plants Persons?p. 302
The Two Faces of Botanyp. 303
Referencesp. 305
Indexp. 327